North Island, New Zealand

Kia Ora (hello,welcome, goodbye, have a safe journey)

I’ve just come back from my 10 day road trip from Wellington to Auckland and thought I would share my entire itinerary here. I definitely could have spent longer at each destination due to the many hikes so i’ll be back!

Day 1: Arrived in Wellington and picked up our JUCY car rental from the airport to drive ourselves to the city centre not far away. Climb up Mount Victoria for a 360 degree view of the city and enjoy the play area there too (definitely adult friendly). Take the Wellington cable car up and walk back down to the city through the Botanic Gardens. AirBnB 120 The Terrace.

Day 2: Drive from Wellington to Cape Palliser where you will see a large seal population along the sea front near the light house. Climb the steep steps to reach the lighthouse and enjoy the views. Return up the road to the start of the Pinnacles hike (funky rock formations from Lord of the Rings). Drive to Whanganui and visit the near by beach for sunset. Accom: Whanganui Backpackers (a motel).

Day 3: Visit Whanganui National Park for the Atene Viewpoint Walk. Another highly recommended option which we didn’t do is the ‘Bridge to nowhere’. Then drive to Tongariro National Park for plenty of hike options! We did the 2h Taranaki falls loop track from Whakapapa Village (the largest ski area). If you have a full day, definitely do the Tongariro Alpine track which takes around 8hours. This was my favourite park out of all the hikes I did so I definitely want to come back to do it one day. Have dinner in Taupo and watch sunset by the lake. Accom: A Plus Samurai Lodge Backpackers (not the cleanest but it’ll do for the hike day)

Day 4: Drive to Taupo lake view point before heading to Wai O Tapu geothermal pools and geysers. The entire highway passes thermal pools so you’ll see plenty of steam along the way as you drive. Wai O Tapu is the most well known and the lady Knox geyser show starts at 10:15am so don’t miss that. Before heading to Rotorua, stop by the blue and green lake viewing point and lake Tarawera viewpoint, they are along the way. When in Rotorua, definitely try out luging! We then did the Maori village cultural show and dinner, and stayed the night in Rotorua Motel.


Day 5: Drive from Rotorua to Mount Maunganui and hike up of course! Then drive to Coromandel area for Ha Hei beach, walk to Cathedral Cove and then hot water beach (visit during low tide only). Stayed the night in Coromandel in the most amazing cabin ever (find Viv on AirBnB 75 Harbour View Road). I would go back to Coromandel just to stay in this accommodation again.


Day 6: Drive to Hobbiton  for the tour and then to Hamilton, stopping by the massive garden they have created. You could spend a whole day here if you wanted, appreciating the design and  gardens of the world. AirBnB 80 Beerescourt Road Suite (really cozy accom again)

Day 7: Drive to Waitomo Glow worm caves (no photos allowed) for the short tour then to Auckland, stopping by Mt Eden crater before dropping off the car. This was my favourite drive day in terms of awesome views along the way, other than the Tongariro national park drive day. Accom for the next three nights: Grand Central apartments (15min walk to city centre)
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Day 8: Walked Auckland’s main high street: Queen street and competed in Battle of the Year at night. Didn’t do much this day due to the competition.

Day 9: Ferry to Rangitoto volcanic island for the summit hike. There are specific ferry times so make sure you pre-book for the trip there and know when the last ferry is to get back! 36NZD return.


Day 10: Chill day, walked the city and played an escape room before flying back to Sydney. Try Giapo ice cream!

My first legit road trip and I loved driving those country side roads  I would do it all over again.

 

 

Shanghai, China

Shanghai is a global financial centre and transport hub in China, with the world’s busiest container port. It is buzzing with life and here are my top recommendations as a tourist:

  1. Yu Yuan (Yu Garden) is a really big area with traditional looking buildings, temples, tea houses and of course, a garden. You will find constant rows of shops and street food too, so make sure you come with an empty stomach!

     

  2. The Bund and Nanjing Road can be done together as they are within walking distance. The Bund is where you’ll get great views of the Shanghai’s financial district and it’s tall towers such as the Oriental Pearl TV tower. Nanjing road is full of bright lights and your common shops, but the atmosphere is particularly great at night.
  3. Qi Pu Lu is where you can find several buildings filled with market style shops which is particularly useful to get a bunch of cheap stuff or very good quality fake branded goods. The branded goods are not always laid out but trust me, someone will approach you to bring you to secret stores and rooms (I felt safe, but would never go alone so go with your gut feeling).
  4. Tian Zi Fang – known for its artsy area with bars, cafes, crafts shops, design studio, galleries and boutiques. It is also known for old Shikumen houses (stone-framed-door houses). Consider trying ‘Smoky Cookie’, where they use liquid nitrogen so you can have a bit of fun blowing smoke through your mouth or nose from the cookie!
  5. Qi Bao Water Village – there are many water villages but this is the closest one if you don’t have much time. They have maintained their traditional buildings and are known for rivers running through the village. Another place filled with narrow alleys of shops and street food, as well as museums which are also great to visit to learn more about Chinese history and culture.
  6. Visit a Speakeasy Bar – Speak Low is ranked one of the best bars in Shanghai, having placed #15 The World’s 50 Best Bars Awards 2016. Slide behind the secret bookshelf of a cocktail supply store and find a speakeasy bar with wood panels, jazz music and well-dressed bartenders. 2/F & 3/F, 579 Fuxing Zhong Lu (near Ruijin Er Lu) 复兴中路579号 (近瑞金二路).
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  7. Hai Di Lao Hotpot. Literally the best hotpot because of the incredible service. You can expect to queue for at least one hour, but while you wait, they provide free snacks, drinks, origami paper, games, massage chairs and even manicures. I suggest you opt for the VIP room (you have an extra $130 RMB) but get a personal waiter who will take good care of you e.g. give you bibs, hair ties, zip lock bags for your phone, refill your drinks, organise the food for you etc.

    Extra tips: Download we chat because whatsapp won’t work in China. Download baidu maps because Google maps won’t work in China. It would help if you or your friend had a China bank account because a lot of things are paid through we-chat, which requires a local bank account. We-chat gives you access to their bicycles, their version of uber and many shops prefer to run cashless! I suppose this system doesn’t make it tourist friendly, but it makes sense that we move towards a cashless society.

Seville, Spain

Seville is the capital of southern Spain’s Andalusia region. I actually did a day trip from Algarve, Portugal but would have loved to spend longer here to admire its architecture for longer. All the main sites are extremely walkable from one another but it is definitely a lot of walking.

Here are my top recommendations:

  1. Plaza de Espana and Parque Maria Luisa just opposite Plaza de Espana which will then get you to the Museum of archeology and  Museum of art and tradition

  2. Seville Cathedral and La Giralda (The bell-tower right next-door to the Cathedral). There are horse drawn carriages everywhere! You could probably take them to visit all the main sites if you are tired of walking
  3. Triana neighbourhood opposite the old city, and a view of of both sides from Isabel bridge including Torre Del Oro, a tower along the river
  4. Metropol Parasol – incredibly unique design! You can go up and they give you a free postcode and drink as part of the entrance fee
  5. Maestranza bull ring 20180209_112237
  6. Alcazar Castle – the queue was so long so I had to give this a miss, but I’m sure it would have been beautiful

Extra note: Have paella of course!

Faro and Lagos, Portugal

Faro and Lagos are part of The Algarve, with Faro being the capital and where the airport is. You can see Faro in half a day so feel free to explore the rest of the Algarve, in particular Lagos which was beautiful! To get to Lagos, it would be best to pre-book a shuttle from transfer ( I used Greenbus costing 25euros, you can probably find something cheaper as I didn’t realise I needed to book in advance). This will save you time because if you wanted to take a public train or bus, you would first have to get to Faro city centre to then wait for specific set times and public transport stops at more places. A bus from the airport to the train station cost about 2euros and the train to Lagos costs 7.50euros or 5.50euros for students.

Here are my top recommendations:

  1. Walk around Lagos within the old town walls which is a tiny area so you can easily do in a few hours. There is a church, the fortress, a unique male statue and on a Saturday, the fresh fruit market is fantastic for cheap and good fruits. Spot all the art work too!
  2. Walk along the boardwalk, using the footbridge to see the Marina and Meia Praia beach. Consider taking a boat tour which departs from the boardwalk to see the caves, or kayak tour which departs from the fortress. 20180208_113555
  3. Walk from Praia Da Batata beach all the way to the light house to see sun set. You will pass by Praia do Pinhao, Praia Dona ana, Praia do Camila and Praia grande as you follow the walking path, stopping by each beach as you wish.
  4. Surf in Praia Porto De Mos known for good waves
  5. Take a day trip to Sagres, the extreme southwest of continental Europe (7.50euros return bus ticket from Lagos bus centre) and use the Tuk Tuk Sagres service which is 100% electric, therefore you won’t smell awful fumes and you’ll easily access all the main tourist spots rather than the usual huge tourist coaches. The Tuk Tuk shop is just outside the only tourist information centre in Sagres (18 euros for 1 person but the price decreases the more people there are, up to 5 people). The 2h tour will take you to Baleeira Harbour, see a view of Mareta Beach, Tonal Beach and Belich Beach, visit St. Vincent Cape (lighthouse), visit a fishing harbour and you can either return to the starting point or be dropped off at Belich Fortress to enter and explore at you’re own leisure. You’ll learn how fisherman catch all sorts of seafood!
  6. Faro is extremely walkable, especially with its designated pedestrian only shopping area, and the small old town still surrounded by a wall. Consider visiting the chapel of bones if you are interested in seeing a cathedral known for a wall of skeletons (I didn’t do this). I did enjoy taking photos of the beautifully designed and colourful doors around the city.

    Extra note: Make sure you have a nata or two! 20180211_091229